Shimer students participating in class discussion

The Montaigne Scholarship Event

Join the conversation!

Do you like to read - and follow up a good read with an intelligent conversation? Is every new book a chance to dig into questions that really matter? If so, the Shimer Great Books School at North Central College may be the perfect place for you. We want to help open the door.

Incoming Shimer majors are welcome to join us on Friday April 21st, 2023 for our Montaigne Scholarship discussion session. Keep reading for details on preparing your submission!

Shimer students and faculty

Montaigne Scholarship

The Montaigne Scholarship provides substantial tuition relief for students seeking to join the Shimer Great Books School at North Central College. It also offers a taste of what students do in the Shimer School, where we read, discuss and write about the “best that has been thought and said in the world.”

Shimer Students studying

Montaigne Scholarship Event

  • Read a personal essay in the tradition of Michel de Montaigne.
  • Write an original response
  • Participate in a seminar discussion with fellow applicants

We think of the Shimer School as part of a “great conversation.” The Montaigne Scholarship Event is our invitation to join that conversation and carry it on with all of us in the Shimer School - and with all those authors, like Michel de Montaigne, from whom we continue to learn.

shimer students and faculty

Who is Montaigne?

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533–1592) was a French diplomat and civil official in the region of Bordeaux, France. Montaigne is widely credited with the invention of the modern personal “essay,” which term he gave to the written “attempts” (essais in French) he made later in his life to understand both his world and himself as honestly and unflinchingly as he could. Between 1571 and 1587 Montaigne published three books of essays on topics as various as drunkenness, cannibalism, vanity, friendship and aging. Montaigne was very well traveled, both as a diplomat during the height of France’s bloody wars of religion as well as in search of cures for physical ailments that followed him through life. He was elected Mayor of Bordeaux twice and led the city through an outbreak of plague late in his term. His essays thus often portray a dim tableau of human existence, but are marked above all by his abiding skepticism and the openness of mind characterized by his personal motto “Que sçay-je?” or “What do I know?”

The Montaigne Event

The Montaigne Scholarship Event helps introduce prospective students to the Shimer Great Books School and our unique approach to a college education. It is not a competition between applicants; rather, the reading, writing and discussion that comprise the event are designed to reflect the main features of every course offered by the Shimer School. Here’s how to participate:

  1. Read the subject essay.
  2. Write a personal response in reply to the subject essay, guided by a prompt set by the scholarship committee. Submit your essay to Stuart Patterson at by Friday, April 14th, 2023.
  3. Discuss your essay with other participants and Shimer faculty on Friday, April 21st, 2023. Participants will also get a sense of how their fellow students responded and will have the chance to experience the format of a Shimer course.
Students reading in class

The Montaigne Scholarship

The scholarship events are free to enter and open to any prospective student interested in attending North Central College as a major in the Shimer Great Books School, including students transferring from other 2-year and 4-year programs.

Successful participants will receive the Montaigne Scholarship of up to $5,000 annually in addition to their current academic scholarship. Scholarships are renewable at the same dollar amounts and do not increase in subsequent years.

The Montaigne Scholarship is not a competition between participants. All awards are based solely on the quality of a participant's response essay and their participation in the discussion. No other aspects of participants’ academic records or other aspects of their application to the Shimer School will be taken into account when determining awards.

Only students enrolled in one of the four majors offered by the Shimer Great Books School are eligible to receive the Montaigne Scholarship. Please see this page on our curriculum for more information on majoring in the Shimer School.

Student reading in book in shimer class

Sophie Juhlin

Montaigne Scholarship Recipient

"The Montaigne scholarship served a dual purpose for me—it was a crash course in the mechanics of a Shimer discussion, and a chance to get to know my future classmates in their natural habitat. It was really on the day of Montaigne that I fell in love with Shimer. It’s such an invigorating challenge to describe and defend your interpretation of a text. And like any good Shimer discussion, your understanding lies somewhere between yourself, what you read, and the people you share it with." 

Shimer student Sophie Juhlin in a classroom


Montaigne Event Days

Montaigne Scholarship Events are opportunities for prospective students to meet each other, discuss some big ideas, and get a sense of the kind of intellectual and social journey that awaits them in the Shimer School. Participants in the Montaigne Scholarship who cannot attend on the scheduled Event days can request to be interviewed by a Shimer School faculty member instead.

students studying


All those wishing to participate in a Montaigne Event in preparation for enrolling in the Shimer School for Fall 2023 should contact Sophie Juhlin at

Shimer students hanging out in lounge

Guidelines and Submission Procedures for Essays for 2023

Read Octavia Butler's essay "Positive Obsession".

Then, please address the following question in an essay of 500 to 1200 words:

Butler's autobiographical essay "Positive Obsession" discusses the complicated act of creating works of science fiction as a Black writer. In an essay of 500 to 1200 words, consider how fiction, especially science fiction, informs how we think about our present way of being. You may want to consider how Butler's experiences led her to science fiction and what her purpose is in imagining alternate futures.

Please make your essay as clear, concise and compelling as you can in the space allowed.

You must type your essay and submit it in .pdf or .doc/docx format to Dr. Stuart Patterson at The subject heading of your email should state: "Montaigne Essay" and your name. Anyone unable to type their essay or submit it electronically in either format should contact Dr. Patterson for instructions at the address above or at 630-637-5487.

All Are Welcome!

On the Montaigne Scholarship Day, participants can look forward to finding out more about the Shimer School and its programs, including from past recipients of the Montaigne Scholarship. We encourage parents and even other family members to attend these events as well. 

Our next upcoming Montaigne event will take place during Admitted Student Day on Friday, April 21st, 2023.

table in shimer classroom

Questions? Contact us!

Still have questions about our Montaigne scholarship or the event? Contact us and we will give you a closer look to what it would mean for you to broaden your horizon within the Great Books School.

Shimer Books in book shelf